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The office of Gov. Jared Polis on Friday issued the following press release on a state disaster declaration stemming from the closure of Interstate 70 due to last week’s massive mud and rockslides:
Governor Jared Polis issued a disaster declaration that he announced he would be issuing several days ago in response to the devastating damage from mudslides that have forced the I-70 corridor through Glenwood Canyon to close and impacted other parts of the state. The disaster declaration authorizes the use of the Colorado National Guard for traffic control and debris removal. Additionally, the declaration activates the State’s Emergency Operations Plan and enables State agencies to better coordinate their response while also providing additional funds to respond to the damage and repairs needed in areas affected by burn scar flooding and slides.
The State Emergency Operations Center has formally initiated with a team in place, and the Colorado Department of Transportation has formed an Incident Command (IC) team to manage roadway operations for the incident — a model that was successfully utilized in major incidents like the 2013 floods.
“The I-70 corridor through Glenwood Canyon is critical to Colorado’s economy and necessary for Coloradans to swiftly move around the state. Glenwood Canyon plays a major part in the daily lives of communities across the Western Slope as well as in moving our supply chain across the state, supporting our outdoor recreation industry, and so much more. This disaster declaration will help to deploy more resources to clear the canyon and ensure Colorado prepares for future disasters that may impact this critical juncture on I-70,” said Governor Polis.
“Between June 26, 2021, and July 28, 2021, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) closed I-70 through Glenwood Canyon twelve times due to flash flood warnings. During this same period, at least five flood events caused mudslides and debris flows to cover the roadway, which prolonged I-70 closures while CDOT crews cleared the road. On July 29, 2021, two to four inches of rain fell in an hour in Glenwood Canyon, which led to even more intense debris flows that blocked the roadway, and a major overnight rainfall from July 31, 2021, to August 1, 2021, caused still more mud and debris to block the roadway. I-70 has been closed indefinitely ever since,” the Executive Order reads.
“These July and early August storm events have caused considerable damage to at least four discrete structures in the canyon, and CDOT may discover more as debris is removed from the affected areas. The recent interim closures and the current indefinite closure have strained local, State, and federal supply chains and economies,” the Order continues.
The Governor and administration are assessing the damage and preparing to request a federal disaster declaration from President Joe Biden under the Stafford Act and through the Federal Highway Administration, which would provide Colorado federal funding to respond to the mudslides if approved by the Biden-Harris administration.